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  Nardi-Danese Alfa Romeo Roadster      

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Country of origin:Italy
Produced in:1948
Numbers built:3
Designed by:Motto
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:March 19, 2010
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Click here to download printer friendly versionBest known today for his wood-rimmed steering wheels, Enrico Nardi was responsible for a wide variety of exciting projects. He worked for Enzo Ferrari in the late 1930s and helped develop the Auto Avia 815, which can be considered the first ever Ferrari sports car. After the War, he established his own shop with the help of Renato Danese. Under the Nardi-Danese banner, they produced various sports cars. The most potent of these were powered by an Alfa Romeo sourced six cylinder engine.

The chassis Nardi designed for the new sports car consisted of two side-members with considerable cross-bracing. Each side-member was constructed from two tubes running from the front to the back of the car with vertical and diagonal tubes added for further strength. At the front the chassis was suspended by double wishbones and a transverse leaf-spring that ran under the chassis rails. A live-axle with Bugatti-style reversed quarter-elliptic leaf springs served as the rear end. Massive drum brakes were fitted on each corner.

A dry-sump version of Alfa Romeo's 6C 2500 was mounted low and well back in the chassis. This resulted in a better weight balance than on the 6C engine competition Alfas of the period. Nardi was an engine tuning wizard; his skills were in high demand of both the criminals and law enforcement. After he worked his magic on the 2.5 litre straight six, it produced around 150 bhp. That was quite an improvement over the (most definitely conservative) 105 bhp Alfa Romeo claimed as the engine's output. The four-speed gearbox found in the 6C 2500 was also used for the Nardi-Danese.

It is obvious that Nardi gave considerable thought to the car's weight distribution. As stated earlier the engine was installed towards the centre of the car. He left enough space in front of the engine for the water and oil radiators to also be fitted within the car's wheelbase. To balance out the mass of the engine, the sizeable fuel tank was mounted on top of the rear suspension. The smaller tank for the dry-sump system was mounted alongside the engine. While most of the components were custom built, Nardi did try to use much cheaper Fiat bits where possible.

Nardi used various local coach-builders for his projects but entrusted the clothing of the Alfa Romeo engined Nardi-Daneses to Rocco Motto. Although not nearly as famous today as some of his contemporaries, Motto had a good reputation for building lightweight bodies in period. He tightly wrapped the Nardi-Danese chassis in an aluminium skin with cycle fenders on all four wheels. The tall engine was mounted so low in the body that the bonnet was barely taller than the front fenders. The headlights were mounted behind the deep grille.

It is believed that at least four and possibly five chassis were built along these lines early in 1948. Three of these were fitted with the big Alfa Romeo engine and Motto's cycle fender body. A fourth used the same Fiat derived straight eight fitted in the Auto Avia while a fifth may have been finished with a fixed head body and the 6C 2500 unit. The Alfa Romeo powered roadsters were fielded in major events like the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio. Unfortunately they did not prove to be very reliable and no notable result was scored.

Never one to settle, Nardi broke his ties with Danese shortly after these cars were built. A few years later he launched the range of beautiful steering wheels that secured his place in automotive history. He spent his final years before his untimely death in 1966 mostly with Lancia related products. The Nardi-Danese sports cars were scattered around the globe and were raced for many more years. Today the surviving examples are regarded as the finest machines that wore the Nardi name not just on the steering wheel but also on the nose.

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  Article Image gallery (18) Chassis (2) Specifications User Comments (1)